Mac mini 16 gb upgrade performance

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by jessef3, Jan 4, 2012.

  1. jessef3 macrumors newbie

    Jan 4, 2012
    I recently upgraded the ram in my 2011 mac mini I5 from 8 gb to 16 gb because I found the memory on sale at Fry's. After installing I ran xbench and geekbench only to find a slight drop in numbers compared to the 8 gb. Why would this happen? Both programs identify that I have 16 gb of ram now but no improvement in benchmark numbers. Would a performance increase be noted in these programs or in some other way?

    Thanks for the assistance!
  2. reebzor macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    You might not understand how and why RAM works.

    People say "More RAM = faster computer" but it doesnt really work that way. The benefit you actually get from more RAM is that more of an application(s) can use RAM instead of disk, which is much slower. If the apps that you are running are currently accessing <8GB of RAM, there is no benefit to having more than that.

    Now, you can get faster RAM, but chances are the RAM you bought is the same speed as the RAM it replaced. Hence, no performance increase while using <8GB.

    Benchmarks like that will show little to no performance in/decrease regardless of if you have 2GB or 16GB of RAM.
  3. jessef3 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 4, 2012
    I do have some understanding however I asked because I saw a website (don't have the link) that showed just as much a gain increasing from 4 to 8 to 16 gigs of RAM as it was to switch to a SSD drive. In fact the chart was almost identical at 16 gigs of RAM as it was for only the switch to an SSD drive. This is why I thought there was a relationship to increasing the RAM on the mac mini. I am also adding an SSD drive so my gains will be noticed after that upgrade I am certain.
  4. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    The problem is that you're trying to compare the performance using a synthetic benchmark which tests the speed of the CPU and memory. More memory will make your computer run faster if you're running out of memory. It won't make synthetic benchmarks run faster, unless you buy higher clocked memory, which will make little difference in real applications.
  5. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    My guess, is that the benchmark they were using utilized a large amount of RAM and their system was maxing out of RAM and therefore was utilizing the SSD as virtual memory. I would be curious to see this benchmark and what they were doing.

    Frankly, unless you are running Final Cut Pro, work with huge images with multiple layers in Photoshop or running many virtual machines, anything more than 8GB of RAM is lost on most users. Even running a couple of virtual machines with 1GB of RAM dedicated to one and 2GB RAM to the other, I rarely need more than 8GB of RAM in my MBP before I start seeing a lot of page outs.
  6. jessef3 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 4, 2012
    I found the link. ( You are correct in that some of the results were in Photoshop. Check out the second benchmark where a mac mini I5 with 16gb of RAM and a 5400 rpm HDD scored a 126.78 to a 124.15 for an ssd with only 8gb of memory. I do see what you guys are saying though. I will stick with 8 gb since I will only be doing everyday applications and maybe some basic Photoshop processes.

    Thanks for all the feedback.
  7. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    While I respect the guys over at OWC, I am going to point out that you should never base a decision on what to buy based on what a retailer presents. Obviously anything they show for benchmarks, is solely to get you to buy their stuff and needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
  8. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    OWC's Photoshop action test is very memory intensive and proves their point that more memory can improve performance.

    Geekbench only measures "necessary" memory to optimize the OS. Therefore, the score will level out after a certain point of memory. It appears to be between 6GB and 8GB for OSX Lion.

    Faster memory will improve performance between 5-20% depending on the application and OS. I currently use 8GB of Kingston Hyper X 1866MHz. 16GB Corsair 1333MHz was fantastic for VMware Fusion, but I rarely topped 8GB of active memory used for other activities.
  9. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    very much the same I have both servers running vm fusion. one server is 16gb ram and if I have windows and lion running it is a happy camper.

    the other is 8gb of kingston hyper x 1600MHz.

    if I run lion alone or windows alone it runs very fast on the 8gb.
  10. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    Neither XBENCH or GEEKBENCH are heavy RAM users so you won't see any improvement going from 8gb to 16gb. Most users in general wont in the real world either (need to check your page outs after a week of use with 8gb to see if they are significant).

    While I'm sure the OWC tests are accurate, they are in business to sell RAM so you might have to be a pretty heavy user to reproduce those results.

    I run a few VMs and am much more generous with my VM ram allocations than some in this thread so I do get some benefits with 16gb. I tend to give the VMs the same amount of RAM they need on a real machine to perform well. As a result they are very fast and smooth without impacting the non VM stuff I do. I found scrimping on VM memory and they'll do their own paging which slows them down and slows down my own disk access.
  11. wooddorf macrumors member

    Oct 8, 2009
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPod; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3)

    Is there a limit as to how much RAM games will access?
  12. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    the server and the base model use a max of 512mb ram for graphics. you need at least 8gb ram in those two machines to get to 512gb graphics.

    if you put in 10gb 12gb or 16gb the graphics part for ram is still 512mb.

    the two mid models use a separate gpu chip it is ddr5 ram and it is set at 256mb at all times. of course I games use ram for more then graphics so to know the exact amount of ram a game pulls for now graphic use you need to find a test on the net or test it yourself.

    mac minis are so so for games . some users have found that kingston hyper x 1600 and 1866 have boosted their scores if used in the server model

    I have these in one server

    to be honest I can't tell much difference .
  13. Seydlitz macrumors member

    Mar 21, 2009
    This is a pet peeve of me: The ungoing mantra that people should "take the Ram upgrade because it is cheap". If you don't use the ram it's just wasted money.

    The most common case is in the HTPC threads: developers of both Plex and XBMC say their app isn't breaking 2GB, yet every prospective buyer here is advised to go for 8GB. When pointed out that it does absolutely nothing for the intended use it get's poohpoohed away. Geez, the developers might now what they are talking about? ^^

    The only reason an app would start faster if when you run out of ram before/during the startup of the app and the machine would start swapping. Adding ram is not as upping the clockspeed of the cpu. The latter always helps, the former helps when you run out of ram.

    There is a rather logical explanation ram doesn't make apps start faster: An app is started when it's loaded from HDD to Ram to cache to CPU (there are also prefetch caches and ram caches, but lets keep it simple). Adding ram onlu ups the pool of avialable ram, it does nothing to speed up this basic process.

    now if you run out of Ram it becomes a different ballpark. The program with the lowest priority (algorithmically decided by OS) gets it's ram offloaded to the HDD (page file) to create space for the new app. Not only does this extra step slow things (not just an extra step, also this step is in the slowest part of the chain), the Algorithm used is pretty good... but not flawless. Chances are you really needed that second program, so memory gets offloaded again.. etc. etc. etc.

    So there are a few very good reasons to get more ram, heavy multitasking, VM's for instance and some heavy duty rendering if the program supports it. That's here you will notice the difference. But in webbrowsing or even HTPC duties? Nothing will change.

    More is better... if and when you use it.

    *Note: I'm not saying you don't need it, just saying that your initial test method is flawed. Best way to find out the difference is taxing it by opening every app you have^^
  14. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    While I would agree that upgrading for no reason is pointless, but I will also point out that 2GB is pretty much the minimum required for OS 10.7 at this point. This minimum requirement is only going to go up in the future. Buying RAM when it is cheap, is better than waiting and having to pay more (i.e. Look at DDR2 vs DDR3 costs these days). Eventually memory manufacturers move on to the "next big thing" and slowly convert their memory lines to the "new" memory tech leaving older tech costs to sky rocket.

    With that said, I can't recommend 16GB to anyone unless doing a lot of VM's and then I wouldn't recommend doing that unless you have a quad core. 8GB will at least max out the RAM allotted to the integrated video so it should theoretically help in gaming (for the base and server) and as stated for only $40 it is pretty good insurance on the future and for less than 7% of the cost of a base mini, that's pretty reasonable.

    Oh and there really is no reason to upgrade from 2GB to 4GB. The cost difference is so negligible that you might as well spend the extra $10 just to max out the VRAM.
  15. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    Another benefit of more RAM is theoretically increased SSD life because of fewer or even zero page outs.

    VM's also benefit because you can enable cache disk writes as well as assigning the proper amount of RAM.
  16. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey

    I disagree why?

    8gb ram is the minimum amount of ram the brings the intel graphics chip to 512mb ram.

    it can go up just look at hdd prices due to the flood in asia. or chip prices in japan after the


    Just remember every page out the 2gb causes in the base mini is a waste of the users time.
  17. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009

    And I am making my point again, we are talking about less than 7% of the cost of the base mini to get to 8GB of RAM. At that price, isn't it just worth it to do?
  18. Seydlitz macrumors member

    Mar 21, 2009
    First off, I don't mind a 4GB recomendation (for a HTPC it's still overkill according to both Plex and XBMC developers), but 8GB is something else completely.

    1. Video Ram: This has the same rule as system Ram -> More is only better if you use it. In fact more is "slower" if not used due to the extra registers (check benchmarks if you don't believe me). Now if we look at the Base mini, when do you need 512MB? When you shift large textures.... this means games and 3D rendering. For example Photoshop and FCP don't need much video ram. Now if we look at the upgrade from 2GB to 8GB you can better buy the mini with a dedicated videocard! A faster CPU and dedicated video do a LOT more for you performance.

    Once again: this is the base mini here if we talk about shared memory.

    2. Paging: This is less common than you think. I'll do a side step to Windows.

    - Let's say the OSX Lion 64bit memory manager is just as good as the one in windows Vista/7 32bit.
    - In Windows you need 2GB (and a dedicated videocard) you can run an MMO (memory and CPU intensive!)with add ons, teamspeak open and multiple browser windows. -> I have a win XP 2GB C2D 2.66 running SWTOR with skype and chrome running....

    In another thread someone straightfaced said that there is paging at 4GB running basic apps. Now we might be talking about heavier usage in this thread, but even then it seems quite odd that in Windows you don't need that Ram. In fact OSX developers go on record saying 2GB is actually plenty... Maybe, just maybe they are right?

    Scenarios where Ram will help: VM! They love Ram. Sometimes photoshop, though even then you really need to be pushing.

    In both scenario's going to the Mini with a faster CPU, 4GB standard and non shared mem is more effective and cheaper!

    And yes, I'm using a base mini with 2GB as a HTPC without any issues^^.
  19. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    Explain to me how $640 > $800?
  20. Seydlitz macrumors member

    Mar 21, 2009
    Granted, I was going with Apple memory prices so disingenious.

    That said, any which way you spin it, even if you run into fry's, it's 40$ gone for no gain. The heavy use scenario's not only are rare, they make no sense looking at the low end model.

    Running a VM is nice, but it's hardly mainstream.
  21. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    You really under estimate the need for RAM. Maybe in a case where all it is doing is displaying videos/music (i.e. HTPC), but that is not what this thread was about.

    Frankly, I don't know why you keep contending that 2GB is enough for everyone. It isn't, other than for very basic tasks. If the OP already had in 8GB of RAM, he clearly isn't looking for "just good enough"...Why bog down a perfectly good computer (which a Base Mini with more than 2GB of RAM is more than capable for a ton of tasks).

    And really, isn't $30-40 worth the peace of mind that you won't ever have to worry about RAM as long as you own your mini?
  22. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    The slight drop in number is due to difference in RAM timing. Technically, it could mean anything. Assuming that bandwidth is not the culprit and both the 8 and 16 are the same bandwidth, that means the 16 is somewhat more delayed... so it's slightly slower with more frequent RAM access.

    But that's totally okay because memory access at the speed of XBench and Geekbench is... not realistic in any sense. In regular usage, a "slight drop" usually isn't directly noticeable unless in very specific circumstances.

    The chief advantage of having 16GB is that you don't have to worry about quitting apps after they are used, and you can open really very large documents up in any app without fear of grinding your hard drive while doing so. You're effectively eliminating RAM as a factor holding your computer back.

    In some cases, even 8GB would start to feel... constrained especially when you have half a dozen tabs open in Safari plus a bunch of documents open in Word along with something else in the Adobe Suite.

    YMMV, but my usage shows that I often have barely less than 1GB free with 8GB of RAM installed, doing nothing but surfing the web in Lion. It's not that Lion is less efficient with memory use, but that Lion tries to use as much RAM for cache as possible. It keeps the most used and most recent components in RAM so you can access them fast whenever you need them. In which case, more RAM is always better.
  23. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    You are absolutely right, right down to your post being voted down for saying it. I use two 2GB RAM Mac minis for almost 100% Plex and they run just fine. So does a 2GB Macbook Air. OTOH my iMac and MacBook that run some heavy apps have 8GB and typically are using 5, so they get a definite improvement over 4, but 16 (that I could do on the iMac) would still be overkill.
  24. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    That someone was likely me. In context I said that Lion does not run optimally in 2gb and that pretty much everyone would benefit from an upgrade to 4gb. I said that 4gb was the sweet spot for light use but that that heavy use of even just the apps that come with a Mac can generate extensive paging.

    Can you run Lion in 2gb - sure. Can you run an HTPC in that - sure. But its going to be slower and make use of your disk more than one with 4gb would. Not an issue if you are not interacting with it in addition to streaming. But if you are using it interactively too an have a handful of apps open (browser, email, itunes, calendar etc) it will perform faster with 4gb.

    As to 8 or 12 or 16gb - every user is different. Depends what programs they use, how many they use at once and how heavily they use them.

    Just remember with OS X the amount of memory something takes can
    vary by how much is available. Run a set of programs that take 1.5 gb in a 2gb machine and the same set may take 2.5 gb in a 4gb machine or 4.5gb on an 8gb machine. In most cases paging will go down as memory goes up but in some cases a program will load modules you never use just because their is room and if you don't use the module you really got no benefit out of the extra RAM usage (because it would not have caused paging). While you always pay a speed penalty for paging, the best goal for most folks is to get it to a low enough level (cost vs speed) rather than try to eliminate it.

    Just my two cents worth.
  25. parestailor macrumors regular


    Mar 15, 2011
    London, UK
    16gb RAM would increase the Mid 2011 Intel 3000 GPU to 1024mb of RAM, which would of course increase the performance of the GPU.

    has anyone experienced this improvement?

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